The Pro Bowl has had an image problem for a while. Fans got bored watching the next-best stars in the league play two-hand touch the week before or after the Super Bowl. The answer? Make the event the Pro Bowl Games.
Instead of one big football game, the NFL transitioned to having various skills competitions spread out over two days before ending with a flag football game on Sunday. The first action occurred Thursday as NFL players put their skills to the test in unconventional — catching water balloons, hitting drives off a tee, playing dodgeball — and conventional ways — non-skill players catching punts and throwing passes, players making crazy catches and a QB accuracy competition.
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If the goal was more reaction to the games, then the NFL got what it wanted. Viewers were treated to a spectacle that featured Jimmy Clausen throwing passes to Stefon Diggs in a pool, Terry McLaurin making a highlight-reel water balloon catch and Trey Hendrickson catching a football while holding onto four others.
MORE: Pro Bowl skills competition results, standings, highlights
Peyton Manning’s AFC squad came away with the most points in the first half of the competition as it won the precision passing, longest drive and the lightning round events. Eli Manning’s NFC offense beat the AFC defense in dodgeball.
MORE: Derek Carr talks Raiders exit after crushing precision passing: ‘Probably why I’m going somewhere else’
The msot viral highlights of the night, however, might have been of Clausen showing up in Las Vegas to throw passes. Clausen, who retired after six seasons in the NFL, lit up social media with his throws to Diggs.
.@StefonDiggs making snags in the pool for Best Catch. 😎
📺: 2023 #ProBowlGames on ESPN pic.twitter.com/petlNVFVV4
— NFL (@NFL) February 3, 2023
Nothing says Pro Bowl like Jimmy Clausen throwing footballs at a pool. pic.twitter.com/j1Qq1AXdVf
— Andrew Perloff (@andrewperloff) February 3, 2023
THERE HAS BEEN A JIMMY CLAUSEN SIGHTING
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) February 3, 2023
they got Jimmy Clausen throwing footballs in the year 2023 https://t.co/eSfTaNXagW
— Adam Stites (@AdamStites_) February 3, 2023
The resurrection of Jimmy Clausen. Add this to things I didn’t think I’d see on my Twitter timeline tonight. https://t.co/j4XRetL5xf
— Austin Burnett (@AustinBurnett_) February 3, 2023
Jimmy Clausen throwing passes to Stefon Diggs in 2023. What a world. Can we make him the next alternate for QB in the Pro Bowl? https://t.co/hn1zRi8m85
— Lucas Howe (@LucasEatWorld) February 3, 2023
The water balloon challenge wasn’t easy, but McLaurin had one of the highlights.
Terry McLaurin can catch anything 🔥 @TheTerry_25
📺: 2023 #ProBowlGames on ESPN pic.twitter.com/gvBD6qNJUg
— NFL (@NFL) February 3, 2023
Water balloon toss > traditional Pro Bowl.
— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) February 3, 2023
if the NFL really cared about players, it would replace the overtime coin flip with a water balloon toss
— Emerson Lotzia, Jr. (@EmersonLotzia) February 3, 2023
the OL showing out in this water balloon toss.
— Mike Golic Jr (@mikegolicjr) February 3, 2023
Plenty of other moments caught the attention of fans as they took in the new format.
…We just had instant replay overturn the NFC dodgeball result.
The NFL, man.
— Bryan Knowles (@BryKno) February 3, 2023
Derek Carr using the pro bowl as a free agent combine is hilarious and I love it pic.twitter.com/LII0YdQQkc
— Evan Wind (@EvanWind1) February 3, 2023
Saquon with the ELITE dodgeball moves at the Pro Bowl Games
— Giants Videos (@SNYGiants) February 3, 2023
Trey Hendrickson nails this punt return catch while the hosts roast Eli Manning’s pants pic.twitter.com/l5uMV3Rqdp
— Arif Hasan, but NFL 🏈 (@ArifHasanNFL) February 3, 2023